10 Years After 9/11: Is Campus Security Better?

Hospitals, schools and universities have made significant upgrades to their two-way radio systems and information sharing efforts. Active shooter and bomber response, however, remain a challenge.

In response to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, the United States spent billions of dollars upgrading security. Some of that funding, be it from federal, state or local sources, trickled down to the nation’s schools, universities and hospitals. Additionally, in the past decade campuses have developed much greater awareness about campus security vulnerabilities.

So has all of this investment and attention to public safety been worth it to campuses? According to Campus Safety’s 9/11 anniversary survey, to a certain extent, yes.

Radio Interoperability Has Improved
Two-way radio interoperability problems received a lot of attention immediately after the attacks. Before 9/11, very often traditional police department radios didn’t “talk” with firefighter radios or with other police department communication systems. This lack of interoperability directly resulted in 120 New York City firefighters losing their lives on 9/11. They didn’t receive warnings from law enforcement that the World Trade Center’s south tower had collapsed, which would have prompted them to evacuate the north tower before it collapsed 29 minutes later.

Schools, universities and hospitals experienced similar interoperability challenges before 2001, although they did not experience any loss of life associated with these issues. That said, the risks related to the lack of two-way radio interoperability were obvious, so campus public safety departments took some action.

Of the 352 survey campus protection professionals who participated in the CS 9/11 anniversary survey, 60 percent say their radio interoperability has greatly improved or improved somewhat in the past decade. Nearly a third (32 percent), however, say the ability of their campus’ two-way radio systems to interoperate and communicate with outside agencies has remained the same.

Related Article: Why Aren’t We Interoperable Already?

The sharing of information by traditional law enforcement agencies with campuses was another issue that appears to have been somewhat corrected in the past decade. More than three out of four (76 percent) respondents say that the amount and quality of information they receive from the police, FBI and other agencies has greatly improved or improved somewhat since 9/11.

Hospitals Vulnerable to Active Shooters, Bombers
There appears to be a lack of confidence, however, in healthcare and educational insttutions’ abilities to respond to an active shooter or bomber incident. Overall, 10 percent say their institutions would respond ineffectively or be completely unprepared to respond to a bomber. That percentage rises to 12 when respondents are asked about their institution’s ability to respond to active shooters.

Hospital survey takers are particularly insecure about these issues. Thirteen percent say their institutions would respond ineffectively or be completely unprepared to respond to a bomber, and that percentage rises to more than 20 for active shooter incidents.

View 9/11 Anniversary Survey Results and Respondent Comments

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About the Author

Robin Hattersley Gray
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Robin has been covering the security and campus law enforcement industries since 1998 and is a specialist in school, university and hospital security, public safety and emergency management, as well as emerging technologies and systems integration. She joined CS in 2005 and has authored award-winning editorial on campus law enforcement and security funding, officer recruitment and retention, access control, IP video, network integration, event management, crime trends, the Clery Act, Title IX compliance, sexual assault, dating abuse, emergency communications, incident management software and more. Robin has been featured on national and local media outlets and was formerly associate editor for the trade publication Security Sales & Integration. She obtained her undergraduate degree in history from California State University, Long Beach.

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